The Difference between Affilating Oneself to the Book and the Sunnah and Acting upon It
As for those whom we have pointed out at the outset of this speech from the salafiyyīn and other than them from amongst those who adhere to their mode of conduct, and they could be referred to by other than this name, then these ones differ from all of the other Islamic groups because they hold onto something else. This something else is: safety from going against the Book and the Sunnah in the name of the Book and the Sunnah. Indeed, that is due to holding onto what the Companions of the Prophet from the emigrants (muhājirūn) and the helpers (anṣār) and those who followed them from the tābiʿīn and the tābiʿ tābiʿīn. Indeed, they are the generations for whom goodness was witnessed in the authentic ḥadīth. Rather, it is a mutawātir (concurrent) ḥadīth in which the Messenger of Allāh said, “The best of people are my generation, then those who follow them.”
So mere affiliation to the Book and the Sunnah, if it is not accompanied by true reliance upon them and acting upon them, then it is merely a claim that is devoid of correctness. Likewise, the ascription to Salafīyyah, if it does not comprise of acting upon the principles of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamāʿah, then it is merely an empty claim. And claims to an appellation do not necessitate confirmation of the attributes.
Imām Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī (raḥimahullāh)
Excerpted from the 2nd Edition of The Sacred Salafī Methodology: An Islamic Manual of Reform